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Inspirational Women In Hollywood: How Dana Lyn Baron Is Helping To Shake Up The Entertainment Industry

I love acting. I love what I do, pure and simple. That is what drives me to get up every day and work in TV and Film. It brings me joy. A few changes I’d love to see in the industry going forward would be more inclusion, less ageism and better working conditions for all. I’m very glad that the conversations have begun to address all of these issues. And my hope is they continue as we move forward. The work isn’t done yet.

As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dana Lyn Baron whose next film, BEING THE RICARDOS starring Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem, is poised to be one of the top frontrunners Oscar season 2021–2022.

“If you have to label me anything, I’m known as a ‘working character actress,’ an extremely versatile, experienced, and reliable performer who has made a living consistently for decades finally arriving at the moment that’s been waiting for me all along.” — Dana Lyn Baron

It’s not every day that a decades-long working actor goes from landing a key role in a David Fincher movie (Oscar-winning, Netflix’s Mank) to the next role in a long-awaited Aaron Sorkin motion picture. But that defines the newest ‘breakout actress’ yet to be discovered, Dana Lyn Baron, who finds herself at the precipice of one of the most anticipated motion pictures to come out this 2021–2022 awards season, Being The Ricardos (Amazon Studios, Dec. 10th).

Starring Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball and Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz, the film examines various personal and professional challenges faced by the iconic entertainment couple. The movie also stars Jake Lacy, J.K. Simmons, Nina Arianda, Tony Hale and Alia Shawkat and chronicles five days in September 1952 as the I Love Lucy cast and crew produce a single episode amid Ball and Arnaz facing their own separate crises. Those include an investigation of Ball by the House Un-American Activities Committee for potential ties to communism and Arnaz’s tabloid cover spread titled “Desi’s Wild Night Out.”

Cast as Desi’s executive secretary, ‘Miss Rosen,’ landing the sought after role on her very first audition, Baron’s character is the glue that holds Desilu Productions’ office together and the reliable confidante to the lead role Bardem portrays in the riveting drama written and directed by one of Hollywood’s most esteemed multi-hyphenates, Aaron Sorkin. In fact, Dana used her own early career experience as a temp at some of the industry’s leading companies and studios in her 20s while establishing herself as an actress who always delivers. It’s that personal ‘twist’ that makes her screen time memorable.

TV highlights include the Season 6 premiere of Bosch (Amazon), FX’s Golden Globe, SAG and Emmy Award-winning The Assassination of Gianni Versace, NBC’s This is Us, Showtime’s Shameless, Cartoon Network’s We Bare Bears, and the lead role in the Emmy Award-winning comedy short In Passing.

Baron graduated from UCLA with a BA in Mass Communication and continues to hone her craft with go-to workshops including BGB Studios, Antaeus Theatre Company and studying with a long-time coach, Cameron Watson. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two rescue cats and supports charitable causes such as Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids and World Central Kitchen.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Thank you! I’m delighted to be speaking with you. So, I’m fond of sharing that I was born in a naval hospital in Kittery, Maine. My father was stationed there in Vietnam. We left Maine when I was three months old, with a “pit-stop” in Chicago while my father attended medical school, and then finally San Diego when I was five. I’m the eldest of three girls. My father, now retired, was an anesthesiologist and my mother was a stay-at-home Mom. I had a fairly, dare I say, normal childhood. Blessed in many ways. My mother always made sure we were exposed to different experiences, whether it be art class or playing soccer or studying piano; even studying French, which unfortunately I resisted very strongly. My family was not a show business family, so there really was no reason for me to think about or believe that it was anything that might make a “proper career path” for me. I laugh about the fact that I grew up in a Southern California beach town, but I was so not a beach girl. I was more interested in soccer practice or dance class or studying for my straight A’s in school. I expected a lot of myself at an early age. The truth is, I know I was also struggling with insecurities about my body. My body image. I was an obese kid, and it was strange because I was so active in sports, dance, etc. My parents (and doctors) chocked it up to genetics or what-have-you and did their best to try and help me slim down to a healthier weight for my age. The unusual thing at that time was I didn’t realize there was anything “wrong” with me. I was popular. I was smart, athletic. I’m not proud to say it, but in school, I remember making fun of the other overweight kids! To my parents’ credit, they never criticized or made me feel bad. I knew they were worried. I could just tell. When I was thirteen, I had my growth spurt and fairly quickly became very thin, to the point where people were worried about me. Teachers asked if I was okay if I was anemic. A few thought I was anorexic which was certainly not the case. It was a strange and painful time because it set the stage for a lot of insecurities and issues around self-love and self-worth. I dealt with mild depression during this time, too. But the thing that made me want to get out of bed every day was my love of dance. I didn’t start in earnest until I was 12 years old. But once I fell for it, I accelerated really quickly. And that’s when my world started to open up. The road to my artistic path, that is.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

As I mentioned, I started dancing when I was 12. There were a handful of kids at my dance studio and in my classes, who were going up to Los Angeles and auditioning for commercials, tv shows and movies. And a few of them were doing well. Among them, Mario Lopez and Taryn Manning. So being around those kids planted a seed. And that was when I first had that thought “Hey, I wanna do that!” Alas, my parents were not stage parents at all. So even though I remember telling them I wanted to get an agent and go to Los Angeles to audition for these things, they had no idea what to actually do about it. And frankly. I don’t think they wanted to do it. So me being me, I somehow got a Los Angeles phone book and started looking up the numbers for Los Angeles agents and simply calling them myself! It feels both ridiculous and amazing that I had that gumption when I was that age. I had no idea how the business actually worked. So that was the very, very beginning of my specific career path.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since your began your career?

You know, I spent my 20s in New York City. And I couldn’t get arrested as an actor! No agents were interested. I wasn’t getting cast in anything. I was told I was talented, but they just didn’t know what to do with me. It was like my outsides weren’t aligned with my insides. And while I may have been a good young actor with a lot of potentials, I know I wasn’t a great actor yet. I wasn’t ready. But the interesting thing I want to talk about is the unexpected curves my path started to take during this time. Instead of doing the time-honored “waiting on tables” which so many artists do, for my day job, I chose to be a temp. As in, I worked as a temporary executive assistant. I started in finance but soon enough found my way into the entertainment companies. I was a regular floater in the Miramax buildings downtown in Tribeca. I also worked for Scott Rudin for a period of time. These gigs actually made me pretty happy because I was at least close to the industry I wanted to be a part of. I was like a sponge, eyes and ears wide open, just paying attention. To everything. During this time I also fell into producing. I was part of the independent film crowd running around just shooting short films around New York City. Some were good, some were really bad, but it didn’t matter. In New York, I felt like you could do or try anything. And for that, it was a really important time for me. To put that hat on. It taught me to treat my career as an actual career. As something to truly build.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I was 16, I made my professional musical theatre debut in a regional production of 42nd Street. This was a huge deal for multiple reasons as this was the first musical I ever saw on Broadway. It is also the first musical I ever saw on the West End in London. I was a gifted tap dancer and the youngest member of this professional cast. Thrilling, right? So we’re rehearsing We’re in the Money, a bright and energetic number in the show. It’s still fairly new to us all, but we were doing a full run of it. Back then, I had this habit, which I probably still have a bit of now. When I’m concentrating. Thinking really hard. Especially when I’m learning something new. I tend to have a very serious look on my face. I blame the slightly downward slant of my eyes and eyebrows. My whole life, I’ve experienced people walking up to me to tell me to smile. Even perfect strangers! Which honestly really pissed me off. Ha-ha. But I digress. We were rehearsing this happy musical number, and I’m minding my own business, making sure I get the choreography down when all of a sudden the choreographer — who was an original member of the Broadway cast, by the way — shouts, “Dana! This is not Anne Frank” As in, not a drama. Everything stopped. I felt like I would burst out crying. I was instantly mortified, embarrassed, and shocked. But somehow I had the wherewithal to suck it up and say, “Sorry. Got it.” He nodded and said something like, “Let’s start at the top.” I waited to have my big cry in the bathroom at the next break and was fine after. I can laugh at this moment now. And I learned a great deal from it. I learned about professionalism. I learned a bit about how you conduct yourself in a professional setting. I learned that you need a bit of a thick skin to do this job. I learned that you can’t take things personally. I do want to be clear that the choreographer’s words to me did not feel abusive at all. I know he just wanted something of me that I wasn’t yet giving him. It was my first show. And I simply didn’t know. It’s a good thing I’m excellent at taking direction. Because when we started the number again. I performed the crap out of it.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Oh my goodness! It feels impossible to mention just one person. For me, it’s about the key teachers I had along the way. Each one seemed to show up at a particular time and place that was absolutely perfect for where I was. Both in life and in my craft. Each one was part of new and important chapters of my journey. If I must choose one though, I want to mention my first acting teacher, the late Paul E. Richards. An original member of the esteemed Actors Studio in New York City, he had a vibrant career on Broadway. A truly brilliant actor who, God knows why never became a household name. But selfishly, I’m grateful for this, because he might not have ever been my teacher. He was the first person to see something in me, even though I couldn’t yet. He knew exactly how to guide me, how to talk to me, what plays to give me to help me to grow as an actor. He also helped me begin to break down my walls. Piece by piece. He helped me understand what it meant to create a character. A full, multi-dimensional character. And everything was grounded in truth. Truth is vital to me in my work.

You have been blessed with increasing success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

I’ve been blessed, absolutely, but none of it was handed to me. It’s been a real journey. I’ve worked really hard, and diligently. This path takes perseverance, gumption, but most of all, heart. One of the things I always tell others who are just starting out is this: It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You will continually evolve and grow through the course of this path. Once you truly understand this deep in your bones, it can make such a big difference. I know it did for me. I don’t like using the word failure when it comes to a creative career. There’s so much beyond our control. And there is definitely an element of luck. There’s no way of escaping that. Unfortunately, this is not a merit-based career. All that said, as you go along your way, there are peaks and valleys. In the harder times, I’ve felt deep sadness and frustration. Disappointment. But it’s in these particular moments that you have the opportunity to stop and reassess. To ask yourself. Do I still love this? Do I still need to do this? Can I imagine doing anything else? If the answer is no, well, there you have it. But if at any point on the journey, there is something else you feel called to do. That’s okay too. And you’re not a failure if you move on to other things. You discover it along the way, though. And for the time being at least, if you are called to this path, and it brings you joy and fulfillment (along with the more difficult emotions), do it. And do it wholeheartedly. One of the other pieces of advice I always give is, keep working on your craft, keep working on your craft, keep working on your craft. I believe artists are athletes. It’s a marathon, remember? What we do involves endurance, flexibility, determination and fearlessness, among other qualities. But my advice is to always be doing what you do. So, for example, if I’m not working on a TV or film set or on a stage in a theater, then I’m in a class where I continue to do work and continue to grow and continue to be challenged. I like to say a football player doesn’t spend the offseason just lying on the couch binging tv shows and eating popcorn, right? They still hit the gym every single day. We should be. too. Of course, you also need to know yourself. When you need to create space and rest, do that. And do it with the intention of rejuvenating and restoring. Or just getting a new perspective. I have a great love of travel. That has definitely fed my acting (as has spending time in nature, art museums, the zoo). Over the years, I created this little motto for myself: Sometimes you have to go away to come home again. Sometimes an artist needs to step away. To get a new perspective. To perhaps more easily see the bigger picture. Which allows them to come back home. With an open heart.

What drives you to get up every day and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?

I love acting. I love what I do, pure and simple. That is what drives me to get up every day and work in TV and Film. It brings me joy. A few changes I’d love to see in the industry going forward would be more inclusion, less ageism and better working conditions for all. I’m very glad that the conversations have begun to address all of these issues. And my hope is they continue as we move forward. The work isn’t done yet.

Recently, we are fans of your impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

Right now I’m on the press tour for Aaron Sorkin’s latest feature film, Being the Ricardos. It’s an understatement to say I am being kept busy and on my toes. I’m so proud to say it’s the first time I’ve done publicity in my career! Since being cast in the film and shooting it back in the spring, I’ve seen a real leveling up of the projects I’m being called in for, I’ve added to my team, and seen an uptick in the success of my auditions. It’s an exciting time because I feel there are more opportunities than ever for actors thanks to all the different platforms and the massive amount of content being created. Additionally, the move to self-tape auditions during the pandemic also increased the opportunities for actors to be considered for Film & TV projects. As for where I see myself headed from here, I see myself as a series regular. Drama or comedy. Bring it! Of course, I also see myself in feature films, studios and independent. Some actresses I greatly admire whose careers are representative of where I’d like to go next include Kathryn Hahn, Julianne Nicholson and Olivia Colman.

We are very interested in looking at diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture and our youth growing up today?

Oh, boy. This is an overwhelming question for me because there are a million reasons, right? So forgive me, if I answer more generally. Obviously, I think it’s crucial to have diversity represented in film and television. Because in my opinion, our industry, both behind and in front of the cameras, ought to reflect the world we actually live in. That’s my simple answer. And to me, it’s common sense. People seeing themselves on our tv and movie screens… this matters because as a culture it begins to normalize these things. We all live in this world together and have unique stories to tell. And unique talents to share, whether it’s in an executive suite, behind a camera or in front of one. As for our youth… imagine being a young person, and seeing someone who looks like you, doing amazing things in our industry, and how that could be inspiring and plant the seed of a belief, the kernel of an idea that they can do all kinds of things in this world with simply their intelligence, talent and excitement to pursue their dreams.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

First up is something I talked about earlier: It’s a marathon not a sprint. There’s a lot of pressure lifted when you know this. Another thing I wish someone would have told me was: Find a mentor (or two). Even though I was producing short films in NYC, I was really flying by the seat of my pants. Learning along the way, yes, but it would have really benefitted me to find a mentor with who I could shadow, ask questions, gain more experience. Eventually, I became a member of the Women in Film and Independent Feature Project, but I was stepping away from producing at that point. Next up: Work (or volunteer) at film festivals! I wish I started doing this sooner. I may have found my mentor there. They’re fun, you meet a ton of people at all levels of the industry, and you learn to get really comfortable with networking. I started off in NYC volunteering for the Gotham Film Festival which then led to my three years working at the Sundance Film Festival. That was a game-changer for me and a total blast. That’s three things so far? Oh! I have another one: You don’t have to be famous to call yourself an actor. If you act, you’re an actor. Here is a little story: When I was in my mid-20s, I was with my mom and we ran into a friend of hers who was with her son who was a film student at USC, at the time. And my dear sweet mom introduced me to them as an aspiring actor. To which I instantly replied, “Actually, I am an actor.” It actually surprised me when it flew out of my mouth. And I was really proud of myself in that moment. My mother meant no harm, of course. But that’s the crux of the issue. People who aren’t in show business at all just don’t know. And that’s fine. But young artists or artists just starting out… They can really struggle with that a lot. It can be a challenge when you’re communicating with people who don’t relate or understand what it means to make what I think is a courageous choice… to be an artist. When it’s like the perception is, well, if you’re not Julia Roberts, then you’re not really an actor yet. But that’s just not true. I’ve given you four things. For the life of me, I’m not coming up with five. Can we live with that? Hey, wait! I just thought of a fifth thing: If you want something, ask for it. Because if you don’t ask, it’s always a no. This applies professionally as well as personally, and I don’t have a story to attach to it, but it’s a good one. I definitely wish someone had given me that advice in the beginning of my career.

Can you share with our readers any selfcare routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.

This is ever-evolving for me as I feel like I “meet” my body again and again over time. We physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually evolve over time. Throughout our lives. My well-being journey goes hand-in-hand with my creative one. While living in NYC I finally was able to realize the truth of my relationship with food. I was a compulsive over-eater. I binged. I used food just like an alcoholic uses booze. In fact, it was friends in recovery in AA who gently nudged me to OA. I stopped binging after my first meeting. A real miracle. That said, how I choose to fuel my body today with has everything to do with being honest about whether I’m eating because I’m actually hungry, or eating because I’m feeling something, whether it be boredom, anger, sadness or even happiness (haven’t we all bought a celebratory cookie?). I want to be clear that I do not deprive myself. Not at all. But as I stopped eating compulsively back then, I began experimenting — with my sponsor’s help — with different foods to see what did and didn’t work for me. This was in the 90’s, mind you. And I discovered some surprising things. It was at this time that I discovered my intolerances to sugar, flour, wheat, dairy, gluten, soy and corn. It sounds like a lot, I know. Ha-Ha. My sponsor had presented an experiment to me. She said, “For one week, just try not eating these things and see how you feel.” I like a good experiment. So I did it. One week. And it wasn’t hard actually. Contrary to popular opinion, there is a lot of food I could still eat. Long story short, I felt incredible. Lighter. Less bloated. I felt clearer. I felt such a difference that I decided to keep doing this. After all, I wasn’t feeling like I was missing anything (full disclosure, I went through a rough initial sugar withdrawal). Long story short, over a period of time, I dropped 30 pounds. My exercise routine didn’t change at all. It was just those particular food items that made the difference. Fast forward to today, the main thing is I really listen to my body. I ask what it needs. Some days it’s three square meals. Some days it’s mini-meals throughout the day. My diet is very Mediterranean. Lots of vegetables, whole grains. Lots of fish. Some chicken. A little bit of red meat now and then. I like a glass of wine now and then, too. I’m always listening to my body though. Its wisdom is great. You really can ask it what it’s calling for. There’s so much to talk about with this subject! I know I’ve shared a bit of my food practices. One last thing I want to mention that is, after my 1st OA meeting, I also never dieted again. I have an ever-evolving way of eating. That’s it. What else can I share? Oh! I meditate every morning. Been doing that for years now, but it took me a long time to find that practice. It finally stuck when the teacher suggested I start off “small”. Starting with just one minute of simple breathing every morning upon rising. Soon that one minute became 5. Then 10. Then… you get the picture. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. But even one minute of breathing… even three deep breaths in the middle of your day can and will shift your state. So start experimenting! Another “method” that helped me commit to meditating regularly was the advice given by one of the teachers at Deepak Chopra’s center. He called it RPM. Rise. Pee. Meditate. That’s it. You wake up. Go to the loo. Then go sit on your cushion and you do it! It totally worked for me. Try it! Moving on to exercise, which I do regularly. I just feel good doing it. Physically and emotionally. I exercise seven days a week, but if work is crazy and I can only get in 5 or 6 days, or even 4, that is ok. I love variety, so I alternate between boxing, hot yoga, Pilates and dance. I’ll go for a walk or a hike, too. When it comes to exercise, I say do what you enjoy, do what makes you feel strong, graceful, energized, whatever you want to feel. I take care of my skin by getting facials every 4–6 weeks. My goal is always to have a monthly massage, but sometimes it happens every other month. I work my body hard, so massages have become a necessity rather than a luxury over time. Time in the infrared sauna followed by a deep tissue massage (and maybe cupping) is one of my favorite treatments. Acupuncture, too. I also do a liquid fast once a year at We Care Spa in Desert Hot Springs. A total reset for my whole being. I have probably a small book’s worth of other practices, treatments and rituals, but I’ll leave you with one last one. Water. Drink lots of water. The cells of your body will thank you for it.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have no idea who said it, but I love it. It makes me laugh and also rings very, very true: I tried to be normal once. Worst two minutes of my life. For too many years, I was trying to be someone else. I didn’t like myself, frankly. Especially in my teens and definitely in my 20s, I felt so awkward. like I didn’t fit anywhere. I didn’t belong. I was trying to be what I thought others wanted me to be. I tried to be “normal,” whatever that was. It was like trying to fit a round peg in a square hole, as the saying goes. No wonder I was so unhappy. Struggling as I was to fit in — in my Life, yes, and definitely in my chosen career. I hid my pain very well. To the outside world, I seemed like the most confident, capable person in the world. Finally, and thankfully, I got tired of the fight. Tired of not being myself. I can thank my acting teacher in NYC, Susan Batson, for really helping me break down that wall. The work I did with her granted me the permission to begin to see myself, accept myself and be myself. Which is really the name of the game. Being ourselves. It’s such a beautiful relief to come to that moment when you’ve really met your true self. And embraced her fully.

You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Wow. That feels like a lot of responsibility to answer that question. Let me take a breath. Okay. Here’s what’s coming to mind. There is a lack of appreciation of art in some parts of this world, and I feel that the United States is particularly guilty of this. It’s not valued here. It’s not considered important. In my travels, particularly in Europe, I have experienced a great appreciation of art. It’s a part of their value system. You see governments supporting the arts in a way we just don’t here. I happen to believe art is vital to the health of a culture, and to society at large. So, if I could indeed inspire a movement to bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, I would ensure funding to not only expand and improve arts programs in K-12 nationally but also to provide for community outreach. All should have access to music, fine art, dance, theatre, cinema… Art moves us. It connects us with our Humanity. And it changes us. For the better.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

Benedict Cumberbatch. Because my dream role is Lady Macbeth, and I want him to be my Macbeth. He’s one of the most incredible actors out there. His physicality, his voice, his depth of feeling and his storytelling ability floors me every time. The thought of working with him — and on this particular play — both terrifies and thrills me. It’s the good kind of scary though. And if for some reason we didn’t do Macbeth, we could always do Martha and George in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Tag away, please!

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DanaLynBaronInc/

Twitter: @DanaLynBaron https://twitter.com/DanaLynBaron

Instagram: @DanaLynBaron https://www.instagram.com/danalynbaron

Websites: www.danalynbaron.com www.dlbvoices.com

This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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Edward Sylvan, CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group

Edward Sylvan, CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group

681 Followers

Specializing in acquiring, producing and distributing films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subjects